10/07/04 — Lane changes mind, decides to keep lawyers

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Lane changes mind, decides to keep lawyers

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on October 7, 2004 2:01 PM

Eric Glenn Lane has changed his mind and will keep his two court-appointed lawyers for his trial next week. Lane is accused of raping and murdering a 5-year-old girl.

One of the lawyers, Edwin L. West III of Wilmington, made the announcement Wednesday during a pretrial hearing in Wayne County Superior Court.

The 33-year-old Lane, who is being tried for the kidnapping, rape and murder of 5-year-old Precious Ebony Whitfield, was questioned by Judge D. Jack Hooks of Whiteville about his change. Lane said he had changed his mind during the lunch recess.

"I agree that you made a wise decision," the judge said. "These are experienced attorneys. ƒ If you disagree with them, then talk to them."

Lane had asked during an earlier hearing that West and Richard T. McNeil of Jacksonville be dismissed and that he be allowed to defend himself.

Lane was charged with first-degree murder, first-degree kidnapping, first-degree statutory rape, a first-degree sex offense, indecent liberties with a minor and a lewd and lascivious act. If convicted of the murder charge, he would be sentenced to either life in prison without parole or death.

The little girl was abducted May 17, 2002, from Lane's yard on Brandywine Drive in the Patetown community. Her body was found two days later by several people fishing in Nahunta Creek near the Airport Road bridge.

Lane's decision to retain his lawyers was one of the last big hurdles that both sides had to clear before the trial starts Monday. If not for the decision, it could have been delayed.

However, both sides still skirmished over several other issues.

The defense contends that Lane may be mentally retarded, which would make him ineligible for the death penalty. But the state says that Lane's IQ test scores are above the threshold of 70, the lowest score that would indicate mental competence.

Judge Hooks set up a competency hearing for Lane on Monday afternoon. Mental health experts will testify for both sides about their findings.

West also asked to delay the trial because the defense had not received raw data on examinations of Lane from a state mental hospital in Raleigh. A mental health expert did bring some, but not all of the material from Dorothea Dix Hospital. The lawyers then called the hospital, requesting the remaining information. Two employees brought it in the afternoon.

District Attorney Branny Vickory also offered a motion for the state to test more completely a hair retrieved from the victim. He said the State Bureau of Investigation could not test the item further, but the Federal Bureau of Investigation could. However, the FBI said it would need nine months to test it and suggested a private company near Raleigh.

Lane and his lawyers argued against a new test. West said it could have been done a long time ago. But Hooks granted the motion, saying that if Lane is convicted, the hair would be tested again during the appeals process.

The defense also wanted the state to provide more information on informants who may testify. But Assistant District Attorney Terry Light argued that "we shouldn't spend our time fishing for their information. If they want to ask them questions, then they should ask them." The judge ruled that the defense could talk to the informants before they testify.